"Together We're Heavy" by Polyphonic Spree (2004)
Polyphonic Spree in a literal sense has arisen from the ashes of Tripping Daisy, following the drug overdose of guitarist Wes Berggren, singer Tim Delaughter has assembled not so much a band as a congregation. With 23 full-time members many of which take to the stage wearing flowing white robes, DeLaughter has created a phenomenon that is somewhere between the Beatles, Flaming Lips, Yes, and the cast from Godspell.
In terms of scope, execution and ambition you have to go way back to find albums to compare this record to. It certainly has the sky's the limit approach as Sergeant Pepper, Pet Sounds, Dark Side of the Moon, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, (Genesis) Close to the Edge, (Yes) and more recently O.K. Computer, The Rising Tide (Sunny Day Real Estate) and both of the last Flaming Lips records. With occasional touches of the most grandiose moments of the Who (Tommy), as well as E.L.O. and Alan Parson's Project.
This is huge and intricately detailed often symphonic music, complete with orchestration that is equal parts strings, brass and woodwind. You could argue that this is done to excess, but I could argue that it perfectly complements and suits the nature of this unique musical venture. Not only does the raiment of the group resemble Godspell, but lyrically DeLaughter leans toward the spiritual and uplifting, or at least the possibility of such things and his vocals are just about a perfect cross between Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) and Jon Anderson (Yes).
The only knock I have and it's a trifling one is that there is a little bit too much same-ishness, from song to song, which can cause you're attention to wander, but PS is so adept at changes in dynamics that this is rarely a problem. Also I would say that a few of the songs run a bit long. Still I've got a sneaking suspicion that the Spree has given us the best album of the year. It is heavy but not heavy-handed and light in both spirit and sound. (Note this is a bit of a tease, the album won't be released in the U.S. until July 13.)
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